Hi. I’m Ken Jones and this is A Classic State of Mind, and A Word About … Persistence.
I have discovered one of the great joys in life, I think: the joy of watching my grandkids grow up. My wife and I have six, four girls and two boys. Seems like I never get tired of hearing about their latest accomplishments or adventures. And this week, as one of them started high school, I remembered a scene I hadn’t thought of in a long time.
She was only three years old, then, Addie Grace Jones, our first grandchild. Small. Petite, almost. I sat on our living room couch, across the room from Addie, as she struggled to sit down in a small, child-sized rocking chair her dad used to sit in when he was just a child. My wife had saved that rocker, all these years, and now, Addie Grace, with determined look and absolute grit, worked at sitting down in that rocking chair her daddy used to sit in. She was determined to sit in that rocker.
But, in spite of all she could do, as she placed her knee on the seat of that chair, and lifted her weight, invariably she was facing the back of the chair, rather than the front. And she knew it. She understood that chairs are meant to be sat in facing … forward!
She struggled to turn around in that little rocker. I watched, from across the room, being careful not to let her catch me peeking at her frustration.
The shaking and the rocking of Addie’s chair while she was sitting in it facing the wrong direction made balance precarious and more than a little scary. For her, there just didn’t seem to be enough room to sit in the chair and turn around in it at the same time, especially since it was moving beneath her. I watched her determined expression: again and again, she patiently ‘dismounted.’ Over and over again. For several minutes from across my living room, I surreptitiously watched, as with absolute resolve, she placed one foot, and then the other back onto the floor she had just vacated. Then, another attempt. Another lifting of the leg. Another hoisting of her weight. She knew she wasn’t facing the right direction in that rocking chair.
I was so tempted as a grandpa to ‘rescue’ my granddaughter. To help her. To pick her up, and turn her around and sit her in that place; that space she so desperately wanted to occupy. But I held back. I wanted to observe, and notice, and see Addie overcome a life-challenge common to all of us at one time or another in our lives, whether we acknowledge it or not: the challenge of sitting in the seat we’ve chosen, facing a direction we’re determined to change.
After several unsuccessful attempts and for some unknown reason to me, somehow, Addie finally ‘got it!’ As if she had solved the challenge of a Rubik’s Cube, or some corn maze she’d been wandering around in for a long time. Almost accidently, perhaps, and not even fully realizing exactly how it had happened, she found herself sitting in that rocker, facing forward, her arms resting on the arms of that chair, her feet planted firmly on the floor. She was ‘rocking’ alright.
I smiled at her, as she raised her arms in victory, as if she had just completed a marathon race. And I heard her announce to herself, (and to me, as I sat watching across the room,) “I did it!”
Since that morning in my living when I watched Addie Grace overcome that huge challenge, I’ve had opportunity to watch her scale a lot of walls of opposition. Physical challenges. Educational challenges. Social and relational challenges. With every opportunity, her faith in the God who created her, her persistence, her character, her courage, and yes, her patience has won out.
Her latest rocking-chair experience was just this week. She started high school this week. Shaky place to find yourself, when you are a ‘different-abled’ young woman with Down Syndrome. She’s never been to high school before, but she knows what it is climb aboard a rocking chair. Been there. Done that.
If you find yourself facing the wrong direction, perhaps cramped by the space you’re in and wondering how in the world you got to where you are? If you’re asking yourself how to turn around and face a different direction? Take a page out of Addie’s playbook. Keep going. The God who has the plan is watching. And your persistence brings great joy to his heart.